Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Girl & Her Gun, It's a Beautiful Thing

To say that I have had limited exposure to guns would be an understatement.  My mother’s second husband fancied himself a hunter, and while there were some guns in the house, the actual mechanics of them were a mystery to me.  Bear, on the other hand, grew up shooting and as a Soldier, has an extensive working knowledge of firearms.  We’d talked about getting a gun for home protection before, but the very thought was scary to me.  I thought about how dangerous that could be, and I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be any good at handing a gun of any sort, ever.  The most experience I had handling guns was the water gun game at the local fairs. 

When we went to our first gun show, I was overwhelmed by the amount of guns I saw.  Yeah, I know – it’s a gun show, what did I expect?  I had no idea what to expect, but I never expected that there were so many guns of different sizes and calibers by so many different makers.  Long guns, revolvers, semi automatic handguns, pink guns, camo guns, guns, guns, guns.  That first show, I walked around looking at the various handguns and speaking with some of the vendors, while Bear carefully made sure I was following proper gun handling etiquette.  (as in, when examining a gun, do not POINT the muzzle anywhere but down in a direction where there are no people so that no one’s in front of the barrel)  We didn’t buy a gun that day, and I was relieved.   I still had very mixed feelings about having a firearm in the home.

Our next gun show was in South Carolina.  Our little home is out a little ways, on a small lake.  By “out a ways”, I mean we’re in the boonies, and on a small lake, I mean one that has alligators.   (Imagine my surprise upon discovering that!)  Suddenly my mixed feelings about having a gun in the house became a little less mixed.  So we meandered up and down the aisles of the gun show, Bear teaching me about all the different guns and then, he spotted it.  A Mossberg 12 gauge tactical shotgun, a beast of a thing, and his eyes got this gleam in them, this kid on Christmas morning look lit up his face.  The price was right, and we had cash in hand.  Before I knew it, we were driving home with a gun and ammo of our very own, and I was fairly certain I was going to have to shoot it.  I was sure that I’d do something completely stupid, like drop the gun or break it somehow.  The story my friend Peggy had told me about the time she went shooting with a male friend came to mind – she said the gun was bucking wildly and she kept getting “ploinked” in the head by the spent shells.  This did not sound like my idea of a good time...but I knew it was unavoidable and I was going to have to shoot that gun.   

Bear was careful to give me hearing protection and safety glasses, coached me on how to hold it properly, how to lean into the shot to mitigate some of the recoil, and how to click the safety off so the gun would actually fire.  Bear demonstrated by shooting if first and I was really proud of myself for not peeing my pants….It sounded like a cannon going off!  Oh my goodness, I was not prepared for how loud it would be!  Then it was my turn, and so I took the gun and followed Bear’s careful instruction.  That first shot felt like someone had walked up to me and shoved me in the shoulder, hard!   But I did it.  I shot that gun, I didn’t drop it, I didn’t break it, it didn’t break me, and I hit the dead tree we were using as a target.  I felt…victorious.  I’ve conquered other fears by facing them (rappelling down a tower comes to mind) but somehow I expected to still be scared witless of guns even after firing them.  Instead, I became more comfortable with it and from there my curiosity and interest in guns grew. 

By the time the next gun show rolled around, I was ready for a gun of my own and chose a Sig Sauer P250 compact and spent a good bit of time learning how to rack the slide properly and how to lock it to the back.  Bear taught me how to disassemble the gun, clean it, reassemble it, clear it in case of a misfire, and of course, the safety rules.  My first range day, I didn’t have great expectations and was really nervous that I’d embarrass myself.  I’m really lucky in that Bear isn’t just a great shot himself, but has had countless years instructing others in the proper use of firearms and marksmanship.  With his guidance, I did fairly well for a first timer.  The biggest surprise was how friendly everyone was on the shooting range.  They were all so encouraging and sweet – I’d get helpful pointers, offers to shoot their guns for comparison, compliments our on range safety etiquette and so much positive reinforcement.  I was hooked!  It became an almost weekly occurrence for us to head out to the range together, and it was amazing to watch my progress on those targets.  I couldn’t believe that the girl who had been so scared of guns was now a woman who wasn’t just comfortable with guns, but one who really loved the continuous learning and the challenge to improve with each range day. 

Enjoying the Glock 21's paper perforation power!

I’ve now shot more rounds than I can count, thrilled at the power and accuracy of Bear’s Glock21, enjoyed the elegance of a bolt action rifle (beautiful!), rocked the AR-15’s accuracy and intimidating look, wore an ear to ear grin with a suppressed .22 that made me feel like femme fatale assassin, played with a Czech sub machine gun, and some other cool toys that our range buddies bring out from time to time, and are kind enough to let me get my hands on.  It’s a very humbling experience to be acknowledged as a good shot among people who’ve been shooting far longer than I, and to be entrusted with the firearms they hold near and dear to them.  Most of all, it’s been an incredible bonding experience for Bear and myself – to learn from him, to see how proud he is of me when I’m shredding the x-ring, to have somewhere for us to go where we can blow off some steam and be among people who accept us as we are.  

There's me with my pink range glasses and that suppressed .22

It’s given me a whole new level of confidence and security that my life didn’t have before.  I’ll always need Bear in my life but if he isn’t home I know that I’m still very safe and very capable of protecting our family.  It’s a wonderful feeling, and one that I encourage other women to experience for themselves.  Find a good teacher, one who is well versed in not only the mechanics of shooting and marksmanship, but also safety, read up on the subject.  I highly recommend the book, “The Cornered Cat” by Kathy Jackson, and her website,  Do not let anyone, regardless of who they are, or how much experience and knowledge they have, pick your gun out for you.  Pick the one that feels right in your hand that feels like it’s the right fit for you and your needs.  Practice as often as you can, whenever you can.  Learn to disassemble your gun and the proper way to clean it.  Do dry fire exercises at home, drills to ensure you can get to your gun quickly, and have it drawn and ready in the minimum amount of time.  For practicing dry fire exercises, intruder drills, and cleaning your gun keep your ammunition in another room entirely and ensure that your firearm is cleared completely prior to practicing or drills as an added precaution.  It only sounds like safety overkill till you put a whole in the wall, or worse.  My kitchen bares testament to this - thankfully, it was only a bb pellet, but still!   

I’ll be posting more shooting blogs as it’s a huge part of my life, but in the meantime, please feel free to ask me any questions or give me ideas on what you’d like me to cover in future blogs. Till next time!  

Shooting my cousins AR-15 - so much fun, we had to get our own!


  1. Great post! It's always nice to see a new shooter grow and develop. That's one of the great things about the shooting sports and learning personal defense . . . . there's always something else to learn!

    Enjoy the journey!


    1. Thank you, Bill! One of the things I love about our range days is getting feedback from the other shooters, and how willing they are to help me continue learning and growing. It's great to have that "extended family" within the shooter community.

  2. Great post!
    I stole your Aim For the Head sign.:)

    1. Thank you! Feel free to steal that sign, pass it around - so far as I know it's public domain so it's not really stealing so much as sharing, and sharing's a good thing, right? ;)